Romney: “An Exceptional Leader for Exceptional New Challenges”

By Seth Freed Wessler Nov 13, 2007

Mitt Romney scares me. Giuliani scares me. Actually, most of them scare me. One reason that Mitt Romney scares me in particular is his line on immigration. Romney advocates "tough" immigration policy that further criminalizes undocumented immigrants, "secures borders," and requires English only education . The other day I came across a Romney ad that made me shiver a bit. The ad is about Romney’s tough stand on immigration. It ends with a resolute voice declaring, “Mitt Romney, an exceptional leader for exceptional new challenges.” These new challenges, of course, are the immigrants he has been blasting as he shows up on Fox News and in front of crowds across the country. This concluding line reminded me of another scary guy— Carl Schmitt, a Nazi party legal philosopher who wrote in Germany before WWII and just barely avoided war crimes convictions. Schmitt argued for a government where the executive has the power to suspend the rule of law, the constitution, the normal order of things, and declare a “state of exception”. In other words, the political leader can, indeed must, act without restraint in exceptional times. At the same time, Schmitt believed that politics is nothing less than the conflict between enemies and friends and that the ‘state of exception’ should be declared when an enemy threatens the nation. The idea that "we" have an enemy justified just about anything for Schmitt. Sound Familiar? I think so. It is not so much of a stretch to see how Bush and his cronies think like (or maybe actually rely on) Schmitt. Interestingly, Schmitt’s books have become increasingly popular at academic bookstores and on college reading lists in contemporary political theory and contemporary politics courses. Hasn’t the war on terror been an exercise in suspending rules, laws, and liberties and extending executive power in the name of “protecting” the nation from a dangerous enemy- the Islamic Terrorist- through whatever means deemed necessary? Last week, Daisy and Tram both blogged about the melding together of national security policy and immigration policy. When I heard the Romney add on immigration I thought about what this really means. In light of Schmitt who believed that exceptional times call for exceptional action, Romney’s claim to be an exceptional leader in the face of exceptional challenges is harrowing. His message is this: ‘Immigrants are a threat, they are an enemy; their presence calls for exceptional action and Mitt Romney is willing to do whatever it takes, to act outside the law, to keep them out, punish them and those who employ them.’ It could be that the terror rhetoric is drying up and the enemy is steadily becoming the figure of “illegal immigrant.” Or maybe the immigrant and the terrorist are blending together into one indistinguishable brown threat. Whatever the case, it is clear that American sovereignty is being violently exerted over brown and black people who get cast as threats to American safety and national character. As we enter election season, we should demand a leader who believes in reinstating checks on executive power and who is explicit about a just, dignified and open immigration policy.